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Silicon Valley Employment Law Blog

Payment dispute between publisher and former employee

One of the basic expectations of employees at California businesses or others around the country is that they will receive the correct wages for the time they work on their jobs. Whether workers are paid a fixed salary or by hours worked, employers are required by law to compensate them. When this does not happen, a payment dispute may arise. Recently, such a dispute occurred in another state between a publishing company and one of its former employees.

The former employee at a weekly paper alleged that the publisher had kept employee money intended for health insurance premiums. She discovered this when an insurance claim was denied. The employer had not paid the premiums for four months and had not informed his employees that they were no longer insured. The publisher initially said that he would pay the back premiums and any out-of-pocket expenses the employees had incurred; however, this apparently never happened.

$29 million awarded in wrongful termination lawsuit

Employees throughout California and around the country hope they have the freedom to speak up about situations in the workplace that need improvement. For example, calling attention to staffing shortages does not seem to be an inflammatory report. However, a physician in another state contended that he lost his job because of that action. Recently, he was awarded $29 million in a wrongful termination lawsuit he had filed against his former employer.

The man had been the emergency department medical director of a hospital. In 2016, the medical facility also opened a pediatric emergency room, staffed overnight by the same physician who covered the adult ER. The physician raised concerns about patient safety due to the lack of staff on call. He also stated that some of the hospital's promotional information was misleading.

Employment compensation: Pay all time worked, even off-the-clock

"A fair day's wage for a fair day's work" was an old slogan that surfaced in early labor movements in the country. Exactly what is considered to be "fair" has long been an issue for employers in California and throughout the nation. Disputes regarding employment compensation are common when workers do not receive the proper pay for the hours they have worked. A recent ruling by the state Supreme Court provided clarification on how to fully define time worked on the job.

There are many scenarios when an hourly worker may perform tasks either before or after a scheduled shift. For example, an employee may need to attend a debriefing with someone on a previous shift or may need to prepare equipment or documents to start the day. After a shift, workers may need to finalize reports or communicate with others. In all these instances, the court deemed that they are time worked and should be compensated. According to California Labor Code, an employee should be paid for this time, even if it was off the clock.

Ex-CEO files wrongful termination lawsuit against former employee

When California employees and others across the country have to take time off from work due to illness, most assume that their jobs will still be there when they return. In fact, many absences are protected by the Family and Medical Leave Act or specific company guidelines. However, one CEO in another state lost his job with an airport authority after missing work because of sickness. He has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against his former employer.

The former CEO has stated that the airport did not properly abide by the laws protecting employees with illnesses. However, the airport contends the man was fired because of incompetent actions while on the job. Officials from the airport have accused the former CEO of not making changes specified in a recent audit, not properly investing a significant amount of funds and failing to communicate with the board regarding severance packages to certain members of management.

Employment discrimination: Is IBM targeting older employees?

Employees who have been with companies for a long period of time should feel valued by their employers. Their on-the-job experience and knowledge should be considered as assets. Unfortunately, there are some workers in California and elsewhere in the country who believe their ages have made them the victims of a type of employment discrimination. Age discrimination lawsuits have been filed when it is suspected that older employees are losing their jobs to younger workers.

Three former employees recently filed an age discrimination lawsuit against IBM. Their claim is that the corporation was creating a younger staff by systematically releasing older workers. Officials at the international technology giant deny any discrimination based on age. They did acknowledge that the skill set required of employees has changed and that they have to hire and train based on those necessary skills.

Wrongful termination, discrimination lawsuit settled out of court

The Me Too Movement recently highlighted in the news has brought focus to the plight of many women in California workplaces and other states across the nation. Women have shared stories about being sexually harassed and discriminated against in virtually every industry. The movement has given a voice to many who may have kept quiet about practices in their workplaces. A lawsuit alleging wrongful termination, discrimination and sexual harassment brought by a woman against her employer was recently settled out of court.

A former employee of a large national travel agency claimed that senior officials of the company had made sexual advances, propositions and lewd comments to her while she was employed there. After rejecting the advances by the members of management, the woman stated that she was denied promotions at the company. She was later terminated from her position.

Restaurants failed to provide adequate employment compensation

Employees at restaurants throughout California and other parts of the country often work long hours at strenuous, often low-paying jobs. Certainly, workers in any industry expect and deserve to receive the full amount of employment compensation they have earned, including any overtime pay they may have coming to them. When a company fails to do this, it is violating the nation's wage and hour laws. An organization in another state was recently required to pay back wages to nearly 70 employees.

Following a U.S. Department of Labor investigation, a restaurant corporation was found to have been paying its workers a daily wage, regardless of the length of time they had worked during the week. Reports show that some of the wait staff and kitchen employees had logged almost 60 hours a week, yet never received overtime pay. The amount the employees received did not meet the $7.25 per hour minimum wage requirement.

More employment contracts include clawback clauses

Earning a college degree and completing the necessary training is all part of landing that dream job. For many new hires, whether fresh out of college or veterans in their field, the hiring process can be a whirlwind of interviews, assessments and paperwork. Among the documents to review and sign is the contract, and more employment contracts are now including provisions that penalize employees for poor performance or misconduct.

In the past five years, use of the clawback provision has skyrocketed from less than 3 percent to over 80 percent. California employees who receive bonuses or other types of incentives may have such a clause in their contracts. The clawback allows the business to take back any incentives paid to an employee if the company is involved in a scandal or the employee is accused of misconduct. Additionally, if the employee is responsible for improving profits for the business and the profits fail to meet expectations, the company can rescind or revoke any bonus or incentive.

Employment discrimination rising over parental leave policies

For couples in California and elsewhere around the country, becoming a parent is a major life event. While celebrating a birth or adoption and adjusting to life with a newborn, working parents have to concern themselves with leave policies at their places of employment. While companies have always varied widely on the amount of leave provided, societal changes have now sparked debate on how policies are actually administered. In fact, accusations of employment discrimination are occurring more frequently as traditional stereotypes of caregiving are challenged.

Over the years, most companies came to acknowledge both maternity and paternity leaves. However, longer periods of paid time off were granted to mothers than to fathers. As roles in the family have changed over time, many businesses now offer paid parental leave. Yet, there may still be different amounts of leave offered to primary versus non-primary caregivers.

Fire engineer files wrongful termination lawsuit

When an employee in California or anywhere around the country discovers unethical or illegal practices in the workplace, there is often a sense of obligation to make authorities aware of the situation. Reporting unethical or illegal activities should be accomplished without fear or reprisal. However, an engineer for the Five Cities Fire Authority recently filed a wrongful termination lawsuit when he was terminated after reporting several labor violations.

The fire engineer claims that he learned his employer had not adequately paid into the organization's retirement system. He stated that although he had been hired as a part-time employee, he had worked full-time hours, as it pertains to the retirement statues in California. According to the statues, anyone working over 1,000 hours should be receiving benefits in the California Public Employees Retirement System, or CalPERS. The engineer evidently made his management aware that many employees were working over 1,000 hours per year, yet were not receiving the benefits to which they were entitled.

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